An Angler's Secrets To Kayak Fishing For Crappies

Kayak Fishing

Abigail ScottByAbigail Scott
Updated on 9/29/2022

Fishers make up an exciting group of people. In the first place, we can't agree on what a fish should be called, and I grew up referring to fish as "crappies." As I travel around and talk to other anglers, I've heard them called crappie, papermouth, speckled perch, and this one stump me: strawberry bass.

Despite all the different names, it seems that this is a highly sought-after game fish no matter where you live. Besides being fun to catch, they are also one of the best-tasting freshwater fish. If you're thinking about having a fish fry, there are few things better than paddling around a lake and bouncing jigs around brush piles searching for these beautiful fish.

Here's how you can do it.

Crappie Where To Find Them

North Americans love to fish for crappie. Thus, they can be found in just about water from lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers. Many states stock these fish in public fishing areas so that the public can easily access them. There are, however, some public and private waters where they are not present, so it's always best to conduct some research before heading out.

You will need to know where they are in the lake once you have done your research and selected it. Depending on the temperature of the water, you can find crappie in various locations.

kayak crappie

The Crappie Season

You can find them near bridge pilings, docks, and deep ledges near brush in the winter. You can find them in deep water near structures in the summer and fall but can begin to move shallowly during mornings, evenings, or low light conditions. As a result, the spring has three distinct patterns: pre-spawn, spawn, and post-spawn.

  • Fish move shallower to find food in the pre-spawn.
  • During spawning season, they can be found shallow upon their beds and will eat almost anything.
  • After spawning, they head back into deeper waters. Keep an eye out for creek channels that lead away from spawning flats or structures near beds.

Choosing Your Crappie Tackle

Fishing Lures And Baits For Crappie

A jig with a trailer is one of the most effective among the many types of lures you can use. It is possible to cast to the brush pile and let the lure sink to the fish's level before retrieving. Another option is to jig the lure vertically, and it involves dropping it over the side of your kayak and bouncing or wriggling it to entice a strike.

Pro-tip: Try varying your depths when using this method to see what the fish like best.

Color Is Important

When choosing your jig trailer, it can be overwhelming. Pick the light natural color with a straight tail first, then the curly tail if you're unsure what to get. Choose a darker color in the same patterns after that. When you first start, you should only use these, and then as you become more adept, you can branch out to other colors and sizes.

Chartreuse is the color of choice for many crappie anglers when it comes to jigs. Add one of these to your crappie tackle box if you need some chartreuse.

Fishing With Crankbaits And Live Bait

A crankbait can be very effective during the summer months. The usual assumption is that the fish slow down when the water warms up. When you throw a deep-diving crankbait and allow it to kick up dirt and sand, you'll trigger a reaction strike.

Look for crankbaits that can dive 12-20 feet and run them along ledges, flats, and channels. This past structure can also be burned, but be careful not to get snagged because this will result in a lost lure. If you want to use live bait, minnows are the best choice. However, minnows are preferred prey. You can also use worms and crickets, and these will work best when suspended under a slip sinker or free-floating.

It is difficult to tell if crappie has bit until you see your bobber moving slowly, so watch your bobber closely.

Other Essentials

Fishing for crappie with a fly rod can be exhilarating, especially when actively seeking food.

It's fun watching the fish attack on the surface when you throw a dragonfly popper. When fish are more likely to be in the shallows looking up in the water column during the spring and summer, this strategy is most effective in the mornings and evenings.

Spinning rods are the best option for those who do not like fly fishing.

With this setup, you can fish with just about any type of bait. With this, you will be able to cast out a small jig and throw smaller and lighter lures. You'll want to use a fluorocarbon line in the 4-6lb range. You will be able to use delicate presentations with this line, and the line will be so thin that it will be virtually invisible to fish.

When trolling with crankbaits, you should move your line up to a heavier test, typically 8-10lbs, to get your lure down deeper. Your crankbait will sink deeper with a more severe line.

Your Secret Weapon: Spider Rigging

In kayaks, you may be able to use a couple of rod holders to set up spider rigging. Spider rigging is usually done from larger boats. The jerry-rig method is best if you want to cover a lot of water quickly and do so at varying depths or lures. It may require some jerry-rigging to get 3-5 rods in the water. It's perfect for anglers who don't know where crappie school is on small lakes or are unfamiliar with the water.

Take note of the lure and depth at which you hooked your fish once you've hooked one.

Tips For Fishing For Crappies

  • Find docks, bridge pilings, and brush piles.
  • If you can't scout the lake yourself, you can use a topographic map to locate ledges and drop-offs where fish like to hang out.
  • In addition to asking friends who live in the area, you can also contact local tackle shops.
  • If you're not the social type or prefer to do things on your own, sonar will be your best friend. Before settling down to fish, be ready to paddle around and mark spots.
  • Try changing the color of your lure first before moving on if you have found fish, but they aren't biting. Pink jigs or crankbaits can sometimes entice fish when white ones won't.
  • Also, you can try out a horsehead jig with a blade. Any lethargic fish will be more likely to strike when they feel extra vibration coming from the edge.
  • You can use this when you want to cover a lot of water quickly and do so at varying depths or lures.

The Most Common Crappie Mistakes

Sitting in one spot too long when fishing for crappie is a common mistake. Your lures have changed a few times, but you still haven't caught anything.

Changing your lures a few times can be beneficial, but if you don't want to leave because you know this spot holds fish, you should move on. If they're not hitting anything, give them a rest and look for a new area. You can always return to that spot later since you know it holds fish.

It is another common mistake not to use a map or sonar to find areas where fish are active and often leads to the error of fishing one spot too long. Most of the time, they'll be holding to cover, on ledges, or near drop-offs when you troll a lake looking for crappie. Exploring a lake while spider rigging your kayak is effective, but it is even more effective if you dig past places you know fish tend to hold. It's only possible if you have a map or use your electronics.

Spider rigged hobie

Catch And Cook: The Afterparty

Many people still enjoy the great American fish fry during the summer months. Sharing your catch with friends, family, neighbors, or anyone else can make your day on the water even better. Even the most inexperienced cook can follow this easy recipe.

  • 1lb filets
  • 2 cups enriched cornmeal
  • ½ cup self-rising flour
  • 2 teaspoons of cayenne (add or subtract depending on how much heat you like)
  • Salt
  • Old bay 
  • Milk

In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Dredge the fillets in milk and then cover them with the dry ingredients mixture. Pre-heat the oil to 350 F and drop the filets in. Stir frequently until golden brown. Serve with a side dish of your choice. It would be great to serve hushpuppies, slaw, and potato salad together. 

Conclusions For Crappies

There are now sit-on-top kayaks that are just as effective at catching crappie as johnboats or bass boats. Compared to large motorized vessels, kayaks may even have an advantage. A boat ramp at almost every lake holds crappie, but not all lakes have crappie. You should consider a kayak if you want to fish for crappie anywhere and anytime.